Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

Posted September 13

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Sept. 13, 2016

Put on those helmets

Mysteries can be frustrating and, in the case at hand, heartbreaking.

From what University of Arkansas Police Department officials have said, little is known about why a scooter wrecked shortly after midnight Sept. 2. A police officer witnessed the crash, which only involved the scooter. The officer said the scooter appeared to wobble before crashing, but that says little about what actually caused the crash.

Cole Pangburn, 20, of Little Rock died from his injuries in the on-campus accident. Scooters have in recent years proven a popular mode of transportation on campus and around Fayetteville.

Even before family and friends gathered last Saturday to celebrate the young man's life, a movement of sorts was happening on the university campus. An online petition, on the basis of Pangburn's crash, started to press the idea that university administrators should require helmets for anyone riding scooters on campus. As of Monday, it had more than 5,200 online supporters.

Under Arkansas law, scooters in many cases are considered motorized cycles as opposed to motorcycles. That classification depends on motor size and a maximum speed of about 30 mph. For anyone 21 and older, helmets can be worn, but that's at the option of the scooter operator. Anyone younger than 21 is required by law to wear a helmet, but police officials say it's a difficult law to enforce because, especially in a college town, knowing who is 21 and who isn't is practically impossible.

So the conventional wisdom, at least in the wake of Pangburn's death, among the petition signatories is that the university should mandate every scooter operator and passenger on campus should wear a helmet.

Helmets are an outstanding idea, one that would save lives. But just as with the debate over motorcycles and helmets, that's not the end of it. The real debate is over how much freedom individuals have to make their own smart — or not so smart — choices.

We think people on scooters ought to wear helmets. It's wise. But there are a lot of wise acts that are not legislated or mandated. There are many provisions that could be defended with an "it saves lives" mantra.

Are the dangers of assault — for men and women — greater if an individual walks alone late at night? Yes, but every student on campus is free to do so. Wisely, university messages attempt to educate students about the dangers and to encourage smart choices about their actions, but decision-making is still left to the student.

A university police official confirmed Pangburn's wreck was the first on-campus fatality involving a scooter accident. The easiest reaction to such a tragic event is to propose a new law or new regulation, to impose what one group determines to be best on the entire population. What takes work, sometimes very challenging work, is leaving people free to make their own choices while working hard to convince them of what the smarter decisions look like.

The freedom to make one's own decisions shouldn't be handed over to authority so quickly.

That said, it doesn't matter whether the law requires it: It's a good idea for bicycle, scooter and motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Too often, scooters are treated as though they're toys, but as Pangburn's tragic death demonstrates, they can be dangerous.

The Associated Student Government, the university and other student organizations should work together to educate scooter riders, to help them understand the dangers. Perhaps there's a funding source for a helmet giveaway at the start of the school year. If the university has money for a $450,000 gala at Bud Walton Arena, then why not?

Our condolences to the friends and family of Cole Pangburn, who sounded liked a great young man.

In the wake of his passing, let's let education — rather than mandate — do its work.


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Sept. 13, 2016

Miss America, Miss Professional

It was late, late, late at night. Actually, early, early, early in the morning. A buddy was on a flight that had been delayed, and was still on the ground in the Carolinas. It was storming on the East Coast, and when it storms on the East Coast, apparently people in Little Rock have to wait at the airport — for hours — until the planes traveling west finally get in.

Nobody was happy.

The last plane of the night finally touched down, safely, which was the point of the delay. Weary travelers shuffled through the gates and checkpoints. Some were met with handshakes. Some with bear hugs and crying. But everybody just wanted to get to bed. We'll catch up over breakfast.

A few minutes later, a dozen or so half-asleep people waited — patiently, happy to report — for their bags to come down the belt. A small wisp of a lady stood to one side, looking like the rest of us felt. But we recognized her. She had been in the paper a few days before.

Excuse me, are you Savvy? Miss Arkansas?

Her face went from deep sleep to Wow! Why, yes! How are you?

No one would have blamed her for a back-off-mister-I'm-sleepy-just-now or even a you-know-sir-I'm-just-too-tired-to-talk-right-now. No telling how long she had waited on that plane to take off back East, or how many appointments she'd missed here that night, or what time she woke up that morning. In a split second, Savvy Shields went from La-La Land to Miss Professional Representing Her State to a stranger who'd somehow recognized her face.

When word came down that Miss Arkansas won the Miss America pageant this past Sunday night, we slapped a knee. Hot dog! Arkansas couldn't lose this weekend! (First TCU, now this!)

And we got to repeat the story — for the umpteenth time — about how polite a weary Savvy Shields treated us that night at the airport.

Now she goes on to represent the nation as Miss America.

So if, during your travels, you see a young lady at the airport with blonde hair and dimples, if she's named Savvy and seems to have a familiar accent, and especially if she's wearing a sash, say hello. She's very sweet.


Texarkana Gazette, Sept. 7, 2016

Help keep childhood diseases in check

There was a time when parents would intentionally expose their children to such diseases as mumps, chicken pox and measles.

That may be hard to believe today, but parents once thought such childhood ailments were inevitable, and once one child in the neighborhood got such a disease, parents would often have what were called "mumps parties" or "pox parties," bringing a bunch of children together so all could get the disease, get over it and become immune to later infections.

Of course, not a lot was known back then about childhood diseases and their link to conditions that could occur later in life. Chicken pox puts an adult at a higher risk of shingles, for example, and mumps can lead in rare cases to sterility in males.

Now we have vaccines to guard against childhood diseases. But some oppose vaccinations and, as incredible as it sounds, "pox parties" are making a comeback.

Right now in the northern half of Arkansas there is a mumps outbreak. So far there have been 14 confirmed and nearly 60 suspected cases.

The more cases that are confirmed, the greater the chance the outbreak could spread down to our area.

The best defense against childhood diseases and the complications that can follow is proper vaccination. We urge you to get your child vaccinated.


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